The Best Books On The Refugee Crisis Precipitated By Germany's Attack On Western Europe In WW2

Austin Denis Johnston Author Of 33 Days: A Memoir
By Austin Denis Johnston

The Books I Picked & Why

Fleeing Hitler: France 1940

By Hanna Diamond

Fleeing Hitler: France 1940

Why this book?

The first book to read on this subject. An accessible, expert synthesis of refugee experiences based on many accounts, including interviews, but focused on eight that contain extensive, significant detail (all by Paris residents, Léon Werth among them). Diamond concludes that Philippe Pétain leveraged refugees' suffering to propagandize for military capitulation and the legitimacy of his regime.


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France Under Fire: German Invasion, Civilian Flight and Family Survival During World War II

By Nicole Dombrowski Risser

France Under Fire: German Invasion, Civilian Flight and Family Survival During World War II

Why this book?

A more specialized account focused on the role of women, who made up the vast majority of refugees, in petitioning government for civilian protection and assistance before and after the crisis, and their unique experiences on the road. Dombrowski Risser finds that women initiated an expansion of universal human rights in wartime to include refugees' rights. Her insightful and masterfully informed analysis of primary source materials—women's letters to government officials—brings them to life, adding illuminating, and heartrending, substance and texture.


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Suite Francaise

By Irene Nemirovsky

Suite Francaise

Why this book?

Part I ("Storm in June") of Némirovsky's unfinished masterwork novel is a contemporaneously written, nearly comprehensive representation of refugees' experience on the road, though a fictionalized one. But its main subtext—that to many refugees the crisis seemed to portend civilizational collapse—is not fiction.


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The Fall of Paris: June 1940

By Herbert R. Lottman

The Fall of Paris: June 1940

Why this book?

The fall of France is essential historical context for the refugee crisis, and this book is "history with a flair." Focused on Paris—through which millions of refugees were routed and from which two million embarked—Lottman weaves micro-histories (think Eduardo Galeano), culled from an encyclopedic range of accounts, into a panoramic, propulsive day-by-day narrative that prominently features the refugee crisis. A compelling read.


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The Fall of France: The Nazi Invasion of 1940

By Julian Jackson

The Fall of France: The Nazi Invasion of 1940

Why this book?

Also for historical context, this is a more traditionally constructed history—though also a masterful synthesis of sources—and among those that view the refugee crisis as having a role in France's defeat. Clear, concise and comprehensive; if you read one book about the fall of France, read this.


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